Echuca’s Berrimba Child Care Centre shows us how to keep kids in culture – from their earliest days.
In the small town of Echuca, nestled on the mighty Murray River in Victoria, there’s a child care centre with a difference. Berrimba Child Care Centre is a shining example of how to keep kids in culture and transition them successfully into primary school.
Local principal, Christina Drummond, is an enthusiastic supporter of Berrimba and the difference it makes for her community.
This is really a best-case practice that I look at of how to transition Indigenous children into school.”
– Christina Drummond, Principal
Berrimba has been an important part of the Echuca community for over 30 years. It provides a culturally safe, welcoming and supportive learning environment for Aboriginal children to start their life-long journey with education.
Here are five tips we’ve learned from Berrimba:
Love the whole child
Berrimba’s child care workers help nurture all aspects of a child’s life – and they work hard to connect kids with their culture.
You know your kids not just a number. They’re being supported in here. We try our hardest to make them feel loved.”
– Joyce Ward, parent and Childcare Team Leader
Connect kids with their families
When they come to Berrimba they see their connections.
“They physically see them because they’re playing with their cousins, their aunties are teaching them. They’re nurtured by their mob. I think that’s the best part about Berrimba and it’s something that makes it unique. And it’s culturally relevant for us.”
– Kellyann Edwards, Koori Engagement Support Officer at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development
Teach kids who they are
Aunty Melva Johnson, a local Elder and one of the founders of Berrimba Child Care Centre, has nurtured kids and helped them to grow up in culture for more than 30 years. She offers these words of wisdom:
You can face anything if you know who you are. Kids can call you what they like, and teachers can look down their noses at you, but if you know who you are you can fight.”
– Aunty Melva Johnson, local Elder and founder of Berrimba Child Care Centre
Support the whole family
Berrimba provides a wide range of services, including long-day care, transport, support to access funding for mainstream kindergarten services and much, much more.
Berrimba is more like a family than a child care centre, with local Aboriginal Elders always dropping by. Culture is not only taught specifically to the children, but is an important part of everyday life at the centre.
It’s not just a day care centre, or anything like that. They look after the whole child and the whole family.”
– Kellyann Edwards
Never give up
Aunty Melva – and the other pioneering child care workers who built Berrimba over the last 30 years – had to fight hard.
Things were pretty bad in Echuca. Echuca was a pretty racist little town. We were only allowed two Aboriginal kids at kinder a year, and lots of our children went through what was called a special grade – all the Aboriginal kids, through their entire schooling. And I think that’s disgusting.”
– Aunty Melva Johnson
Today, though, thanks to the pioneering work of Elders like Aunty Melva, kids have a much better start at life.
We’re going to have strong koori kids in our community, and hopefully strong koori leaders in the future. That’s why we’ve got strong leaders in our community today – because we’ve all been through here.
“I’d be very upset if this was never here for my great nieces, or anyone else in this community. This is where they learn to know who they are.”
– Aunty Melva Johnson
Watch this video to learn more about Berrimba.
Sign up to support the Family Matters campaign and protect our kids!
We wish to acknowledge Njernda Aboriginal Corporation as the licensor of Berrimba and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development for funding the production of this digital story.